The PewdiePie situation – is it ok now for white people to say the “N – word”?

I’ve never really been a big fan of superhero movies, but one quote from the Spider-Man film (starring Tobey Maguire) has always stuck with me:

“With great power comes great responsibility”.  

This quote can be true for a lot of things and especially applies to celebrities and people who in society are seen as being particularly influential. Whether they like it or not they have power and have a lot of responsibility in their hands. Your Kim Kardashians, Justin Biebers, Jennifer Lawrences and Robert Downey Jrs of the world.  

Whether we like it or not also today social media personalities are now celebrities. The way we consume media and communicate with people has evolved. Traditional media audiences such as TV audiences are declining. We have gotten to a point where there is greater audience participation and creatives are held to greater account regarding the material they release for mass consumption.  

What I am not saying that accepting responsibility means sacrificing artistic integrity and rights to freedom of speech; having to agree with everything people say to ‘keep the peace’. Challenging ideas and introducing new ones is important. What I want to get across is that it’s a rather ignorant and a childish frame of mind to have to ignore that every action has a consequence and that freedom of speech doesn’t equal freedom from criticism and a ‘free pass’ to break social prohibitions without necessary criticism.  

When you are at the top of the ladder there is a bigger responsibility to those below you and those who don’t have the same privileges. It comes with the territory. Freeloading on society without contributing to society is not how progress is achieved; locking in those golden coins like Scrooge McDuck.  

What I am trying to say it is important for those who wield privilege to listen to those who are marginalised and oppressed within our society to create a better world for everyone. Yet, (some) white people don’t seem to get it:  

It is not acceptable for white people to use the “N” word and whites will never from now on be able to have a say with regards to whether it is acceptable to use it. I do not care how unfair whites think it is, how much they want to be able to say it because it’s ‘cool’ or how they use it as a term of endearment. The “N” word is a word which was used every time my ancestors were whipped, beaten, raped, spat on, shit on (yes it happened), murdered, insulted and humiliated in various ways. It is a word that when used by white people makes me reflect on a past which seen black people violently repressed for rebelling or even questioning a system which forced them to do and act as white society said.  

All too often I see white people on the internet coming to assumptions regarding a general consensus in the black community regarding the word (which all to often relies on one black person’s opinion regarding the issue and using this as gospel). This matter is not a simple matter. Just because your ‘black friend’ is cool with you using that word it doesn’t mean you are right to use it. It is a very complex issue that needs to be discussed within the black community. Yes, you can have your opinion on the ‘N’ word too, but at this point the white opinion on this issue does not mean a thing.  

Squat. Nada. Zero. The privilege was lost.  

If white people really are interested in this debate they need to listen to black people first and not just engage in selective listening and just listen to black people whose opinions reflect theirs so that they can simply approve their own actions as there are differing opinions and feelings regarding the use of the “N” word, especially amongst generations, classes and communities of black people.  

The mentality of “every door should be open to me whether you like it or not because we are all equal” and “I can say whatever I want because I have freedom of speech so back off man” are the epitome of white privilege. This is the belief that every debate should welcome the white opinion with open arms and that the white opinion should be the most prevalent (because “those ethnic minorities really don’t know what is good for them or that they’ve never had it so good?”). There is a great bitterness and anger amongst a lot of white people when I tell them that the discussion regarding whether it is ok to the use the “N-word” is simply a discussion they are unwelcome in. I am aware that there are groups of white people especially here in the UK that have and still experience discrimination (such as people from the Irish, Polish and Traveller communities and broke white people in declining ex-industrial communities screwed over by Thatcher), but some white people need to face it that some issues just aren’t about them.  

I don’t think PewDiePie is a racist at this moment. He is not even on the level of people higher on the ‘bigot scale’ such as Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond. I have massive respect for him with regards to how he has been able to create success for himself. I however think he is uneducated, misguided and even ignorant regarding this issue. He screwed up hugely and needs to apologise.  

It’s know it’s hard (especially as a man) to admit that you are wrong, but sometimes it is needed. It doesn’t make you less masculine. A simple apology and education would go a long way. Of course people don’t have to accept your apology, but effort to become a better person is always respected.  

White people, you were born with great power but with your great power comes great responsibility.

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Politics and geek culture – A Peter Pan generation

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If we are to define a lot of things within geek culture art (comics, games, TV shows and movies) then what must be accepted is that art has never ever in it’s lifetime detached from the world it was created in and the person who created it.

It is a well known fact that the world of the Moomin created by celebrated Finnish artist Tove Jansson is deeply inspired by her experiences of war, her childhood and the relationships she had with her family, friends and particularly her female lover.  Would we continue to discuss these stories and the characters we fell in love with as a child if all these never reflected the artist’s experiences and beliefs?  We continue to be intrigued and amazed still after all these years by Tove Jansson’s life, her inspirations for the imaginative and deeply personal stories she created and the political environment they were created in.

There are a certain group of people in geek culture that like to assume politics lives in some sort of separate realm; the belief that politics can be separated from everything and anything and that politics is just about political parties, political campaigns and mostly ‘boring’ and ‘extremely formal’ discussion among middle aged and old white men in old buildings (and in some cases middle aged and old white academics in old buildings). The belief still surprisingly exists that the only way to ever engage politically is to participate in elections and engage in organised activities related to party politics.

The reality is that politics is everywhere.  It affects us is every part of our lives.  Politics cannot be escaped.  Politics is around us from the day we were born and sucked milk from our mother’s breasts to the day we die.  Politics is that powerful.  To wish to not live in a world where nothing is inspired by the politics of the time or past you would literally have to kill yourself.  Everything we choose to create, participate in and consume either contributes to achieving the goal of a progressive society, exacerbates injustice and equality around the world or both.  Politics is so powerful we take on particular stances sometimes without even realizing it.

That is where the label of “Social Justice Warrior” puzzles me.  What does it exactly mean when you ignore the internet’s use of the term (which it is now used as a mere snarl word used by those on the right of the spectrum of beliefs)?  Art with political messages are older than modern geek culture itself. Who doesn’t want a just society?  Even in what I would define as my golden period for gaming, there have always been games where to goal is to fight for social justice by “fighting the power”.  Heroes in games have always represented particular ideologies and the villains representing everything the creators believe is wrong in our society.  This theme is present in the most memorable game characters in history.

A perfect example of politics in older video games is the Sonic the Hedgehog series.  Looking at the Sonic the Hedgehog games now as an adult you can see beyond what people assume is a simplistic “fighting against villain who wants to take over the world” story and see an environmental message and criticism of modern day capitalism.  Here we have a ‘hero’ in the form of a blue hedgehog fighting a ‘villain’ in the form of a fat egg shaped human scientist called Dr Robotnik whose ‘greedy’ capitalist ventures have little regard for the environment and wellbeing  of the animals in it.  Robotnik is a radical representation of  how little the human race can care about the environment and the wildlife in it, all because of our desire to make money, achieve instant gratification and gain power.  It’s no coincidence that the first levels of the game are relatively green and the later levels of the game looking more polluted and industrial with little in the form of plant life.  Even in the later games such as Sonic Colors darker themes such as slavery are explored with Robotnik enslaving the population of an entire planet so he can convert the planet into a gigantic theme park; using the power of the alien life there to realise his own selfish capitalist dreams.

This is why I see most people who scream “SJW” down the internet not as people who are actively out to beat down the oppressed but as a generation that denies responsibility and the fact adults do not look at the world through child eyes.  A generation that is stuck with the mentality they had when they were reading comic books, watching movies or playing games in their bedrooms during high school. A generation that when watching a show like Firefly will scream “shut the fuck up with your feminism, race and class discussions, I’m trying to watch a movie about spaceships, space cowboys, and shit!” In complete denial that maybe, just maybe the people behind the show were deeply inspired by their own experiences and political beliefs and ideologies.

It’s all well and fine to see a show like Firefly as “spaceships, space cowboys and shit” but those who wish to delve deeper should not be beaten down and silenced.  The problem with this is we are simply giving in to media pressure to revert to childlike mentalities where we are drawn away from real world issues. To ignore the power that art has to change or conserve the current political environment for the status quo is ignorant.

There is nothing wrong with relating art to the real world and it’s impact on it. Geek culture has become two sided; two sides which are all out extremes: one which believes that art exists to be consumed for the purpose of escapism (to stop us from thinking about issues such as inequality and corruption) and one which believes art should relate to the real world and discuss societal issues such as inequality and corruption.  There is nothing wrong with all out escapism, but we eventually need to be brought down to earth.  Just like we can take drugs and experience trips, one must eventually come out the trip and analyse the real life damage we have done as a result.

The reality is that we didn’t discover the world through our own creations.  We mostly discovered the world through the ideas that those who created the material we consumed most likely were consuming and were inspired by.  We were brought up by fictional characters.  Spider-Man, Iron-Man, Goku, Sonic and Batman aren’t ours.  They can’t become a large part of our lives.  They represent the ideas of somebody else.

Currently the impossible goal by some franchises and artists is to give the audience back the feeling they got from consuming something as a child.  The problem is children in school are not taught to be critical.

We are all adults now.  We can never ever again get the feeling we had from e.g. watching Pokemon for the first time as a kid.  Our innocence as gone and we are much more aware to the cruel world around us.  Nostalgia is a powerful phenomenon, but the truth is the best things grow up with us.  Even with regards to music the best artists have evolved with their audience.  For example, De La Soul have sustained their fanbase and gained more fans through constantly evolving their sound, material and image; opening themselves up to new ideas.  Even artists such as Immortal Technique and Brother Ali have addressed their changing political beliefs and the changing of their stance on particular topics.  Progression means change.

The elephant in the room – Macklemore’s”Same Love”

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Yeah, yeah yeah…. I will address the ‘elephant in the room’ before I finish my article on homophobia in hip-hop.  I don’t want to talk about this track again.

Some would assume I would be praising this track as a milestone in progressive discussion regarding homosexuality.

I actually hate this track.  It’s an absolute failure of a track.

While I believe that the track comes from positive intentions and did indeed fuel more discussion on homophobia in hip-hop, it absolutely fails at what it was intended to achieve.  Homophobia in hip-hop is a very complex issue and one that needs to be handled with care.  The track to me comes across as incredibly preachy and borderline racist.

If the track inspired you then more power to you.  But in my honest opinion it’s a mess of a track.

The response from a large majority of the older members of the hip-hop community was negative as Macklemore himself fails to address his privilege as a straight white man in the music industry.  Some criticism was definitely racist and homophobic (criticism from professional has-been big mouth Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian being the most infamous), though there were definitely a fair number of legitimate concerns (though sometimes covered in ignorance and lack of care for the gay community).  There is a massive problem with tarring all members of the hip-hop community with the same brush as there are many rappers who are pro-gay rights and it can be safely assumed there are many rappers in the closet; afraid to come out.

Whilst there are huge issues regarding attitudes to homosexuality in hip-hop and indeed in the black community (I disagree with Kelly Fox at Guerilla Feminism on her suggestions that homophobia in the black community is a “myth”), the main problem with the track is that it simplifies the problem and directly points the finger at hip-hop.  He looks for a scapegoat rather than analyse society as a whole.  This is a move that can be perceived as pointing the finger at black people. Macklemore washes his hands of any privilege and doesn’t include himself in any critiques. Regardless of how fucked up homophobia in hip-hop is, the question is that “is Macklemore really in a position to start wagging his finger at black people?” The whole track feels like a middle class white man from the suburbs approaching a group of random black people whilst tutting his head in shame and screaming out “us white people are more moral than you animals.  Shame on you”.

A massive issue also is his reckless use of the word “faggot”.  He ignores that as a straight white man he is in no position to decide whether using those words is ok.  It has a total disregard for the feelings of the people he is talking about in the first place!   It reminds me of RA the Rugged Man’s (who I like to call RA the Republican Man) use of the word “nigga” in some of his tracks.  What really gives him the right to use that word (another topic for another day)?

Regardless of all this I believe Macklemore’s actions were well intended, but poorly thought out. Same Love was a track that could have been an amazing critique and analysis of homophobia in the culture, but instead it fails.

How about the inclusion of gay rappers on the track?  Giving them a voice?  People who  actually probably have first hand experience of homophobia and have a total lack of a voice in mainstream hip-hop media?  Revolutionary idea eh?

Also I am unsure of how gay people will feel about the collab with Melle Mel in 2015.  A man whose lyrics in the famous track The Message included: “Got sent up for a eight year bit. Now your manhood is took and you’re a Maytag. Spend the next two years as a undercover fag”.  Whilst I see what he was trying to achieve (giving ‘legends’ the recognition and attention they deserve), it really is a case of practice what you preach.  Is Macklemore really concerned about the gay struggle?

Lost hope and disgust (kind of a ‘part 2’)

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I need a space to post my feelings.  Somewhere safe where I can rant and rage.  Sorry this post will be more personal.  I wanted to write a detailed analysis of white working class anger and the EU referendum in Doncaster.  I finished part one but have failed to write a part two.

To be honest I lost interest.  The whole analysis of the situation was just too depressing and  Post-EU referendum I feel even more so.  When I woke up after four hours sleep after reading the results I was crushed.

69% decided to leave whilst only 31% wanted to remain.

Unlike any other referendum and political poll we had this felt much more personal.  It was the final blow to the little pride I had left of where I came from and the hope I had staying in this country.  I felt ashamed and  disgusted with my entire community.  That morning I truly felt like a minority in my borough.  I felt that I didn’t belong and that I was no longer welcome in a borough which my grandparents came to from Jamaica in during the 1950s.  What would they have said if they were alive today?  It felt like that 70% majority of people were telling me “get back to where you came from” (even though I was born in this country).

I am terrified what a “thumbs up” and acceptance of xenophobia and racism within already disenfranchised white working class communities will bring.  What will be the result when they feel immigration is not being reduced?  Who will be to blame next?  I feel as though I live in a culture which promotes excuses (e.g. just because these xenophobic and racist attitudes are a result of years and years of industrial decline, being ignored, poverty and going from a relatively homogeneous community to a much more diverse one); an attitude which in my experience ends with victims feelings and pain too often being ignored.  The saddest thing to see was the obvious distress and disappointment a lot of people on my social media feed; young/progressive minded and intelligent people yet to realise their full potential who are determined to support integration, peace, love, intelligent analysis and compassion.

I am no stranger to racism either.  I can remember my earliest experience of racism in primary school when another kid called me a “nigger”, though was forced to apologise.  It cemented in my brain that I was definitely different to the rest of the kids; me, my sister and another black kid being the only black faces in the entire school.

I can remember my first job at Mood nightclub in Doncaster, which a member of staff openly stated to me that he hated “those really black people” but stated “I was ok” (which i stupidly at the time didn’t do anything about just to keep the peace and because I didn’t have the confidence to report racism.

I can remember being beaten up on Doncaster’s North Bridge by a group of white lads with bottles who chased me down the street screaming nigger, leaving my hoodie and face bloodied up.  I was then refused help at the Chinese Takeaway, probably them assuming I was just “trouble”.

I could write more but this really needs to be brief.  All these feel like they happened yesterday and small minded comments regarding immigrants, people of certain religions and general petty nationalism force me to remember these again. It is hard for me to disassociate racism and  xenophobia from the rhetoric of the leave campaign.

It seems as though a lot of other young people from ethnic minorities feel the same as me; expressing absolute fear for the future.  Quoting a user from Twitter:

“Racists are going to feel more empowered as a result of Brexit.  It’s a scary time to be Brown in Britain.  It is not a laughing matter”.

This report from another Twitter user (a news reporter) which is a bit more closer to home  (Barnsley, a town with a similar demographic which is just around 15 miles away):

“Been standing here five minutes. Three different people have shouted “send them home” (https://t.co/cVvmYvC73o)

The fact that the majority of people who voted leave (baby boomers) probably won’t be around that long to truly experience the impact of this decision truly leaves a bad taste in my mouth which I will probably still be able to taste 10 years from now.  It is completely and utterly unacceptable. We will from now be an isolated little island.

What is worse for the baby boomers who voted leave is that they believe they are truly “taking back control of their country”.  Like it’s a win for the working man.  I feel better hearing that a significant number of ex-miners that experienced the 1984-5 strike see that these people have been conned by the political elite (something so obvious in Nigel Farage’s interview on Good Morning Britain with Suzannah Reid straight after the results were announced).

All the white working classes who voted to remain have done is give in to fear-mongering; the idea that when those “bloody foreigners” leave the country and minorities shut up, reject their culture and embrace the culture of the white working class the country will prosper.  There has been a total disregard for statistics, actual facts and analysis from professionals and experts; though with as much shit they had gone through in the past (I have always been told stories about how violent and devastating the miner’s strike was) and the amount of anger and disillusionment they felt they all probably just went past them.

Of course I can’t let this, the total lack of support and my decline in mental health affect me and cause me to just give up.  I need to carry on living and focusing on my personal goals; carrying on lifting, learning the piano and focusing on my PhD.

Of course this is only the beginning and the fight isn’t over by a long shot.  The Scottish reaction to this and whether it triggers a break up of the United Kingdom interests me.  If Scotland leaves and decides to stay in the EU I would be very attracted to living there as Glasgow for me is an amazing place to live where I feel welcome with open arms, plus working in the alcohol rehabilitation field there would be incredibly interesting.

Staying positive and keeping my mind off this for me is the key.  We all need to find a happy place even if that means letting go.  We need to seek happiness and not let politics get us down.  Yes I may be a hypocrite saying that but hopefully I will heed my own words.

 

White working class anger, Doncaster and EU referendum – how the hell we got to this(part 1)

 

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I feel it is necessary to post my analysis of what is happening in Northern ex-mining / working class communities such as Doncaster at the moment. The situation this country is facing at the moment  (either leaving the EU or remaining in the EU) will change politics in the UK forever and shouldn’t be taken lightly. The EU referendum campaign is getting uglier and more depressing by the minute.

I feel is a perfect opportunity to discuss politics in white working class areas more.  I am aware that though I was born here, I am analysing these areas as both an insider and outsider due to my afro-caribbean heritage, my educational background and the fact I have only moved back into the area from Leeds around 3 years ago. 

The political landscape here in Doncaster at the moment feels incredibly uncomfortable and anti-immigrant sentiment and right-wing politics in my personal opinion seems to have spread. The main question we should be asking is how did this come to be in areas that always leaned towards the  relatively more “left wing” Labour movement? What can we learn from history?

 The majority of media focus has been on what I see as “angry white working class people”; the views of ethnic minorities including those from Asian, black, Jewish, Irish Traveller, Roma Gypsy and Eastern European communities unfortunately pushed aside often by the media. I have witnessed an obsession with the image of white English working class wanting as Michael Gove drones on a million times “to take back control” (the teachers he fucked over during his time as as education minister are saying the same at the moment about their workload). 

If we were to listen to economists, academics and other ‘experts’ it can safely be said that an overwhelming majority state that leaving the EU would as a result make working people and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds worse off and the statistics and research is clear.   Bad for individuals and bad for business.  Leaving the EU is if we look at the statistics and analyse history a bad move. If we use common sense –  leaving the single market and making trade more difficult with neighbours means those neighbours will find business elsewhere (just ask China about the benefits of opening up to trade).

Statistics and numbers are not in favour of the Brexit camp, however Brexit campaigners seem to have learned a lot from the SNP during their Scottish Independence campaign which seen all logical economic cases against Independence brushed off as project fear and Tory party lies; lies stirred by the powers that be who are trying to hold back good folks fighting for a better society.  What I have seen when it comes to arguments made by reputable and well respected academics, graduates, economists, professionals (medical, etc) and other experts in various fields is the brushing off of their advice; politicians almost screaming to the public that experts more than often seem to get things wrong and are mostly biased and out to oppress the public.  This has resulted in feelings of confusion, distrust and fear among people in ex-mining communities who are often ignored by politicians and academics, economists and other so-called ‘experts’ in the first place.

In the context of the Doncaster area mistrust of ‘professionals’ can be seen to be exacerbated, especially when all the various high profile cases to hit the area are taken into account.  Well known conflicts such as ‘the miners strike’, cases such as Edlington (which resulted in Doncaster being labeled nationwide as dysfunctional, social work professionals demonized and the first Local Authority to have their social services taken from their control), Donny Gate, English Democrat Mayor Peter Davies and recent developments involving South Yorkshire Police (Hillsbrough, etc).  The Independent puts it bluntly stating Doncaster has “an unwanted notoriety for failing children’s services, political corruption and industrial decline.”

The so-called ‘experts’ often do not know how to engage with the white working class in mining areas.  Tension between ‘experts’ and people in mining communities is nothing new and can definitely be reflected in past studies of these areas.  Past research of mining communities has been criticised for giving a distorted picture of the case study areas they were analysing by residents and prominent figures in the chosen case study areas.  Field notes by Warwick and Littlejohn (1992) from an interview with a local trade unionist and Labour councillor address this issue regarding the most prominent research into culture in mining communities Coal is our Life by Dennis, Henriques and Slaughter (1969).  They express the participant’s feelings of betrayal regarding the portrayal of his community; emphasising the argument that “outsiders continually get the place and its people all wrong” and that the researchers involved in the Coal is Our Life study only looked for evidence which would support the stereotypes and preconceived ideas they had about the area. 

“They had seriously betrayed the trust that had been showed to them, bitten the hands that fed them with information.  The place was represented as a cultural desert, full of drunken, wife-beating miners who only thought of beer, baccy and betting, Rugby League, football and girls of low morals” (field notes, 1981, quoted by Warwick and Littlejohn, 1992).

The simplistic explanation given through mainstream media to often describe this phenomenon is simply that these areas (the north in general) are not very diverse, are full of angry and racist working class people (mostly white men) that have been ignored by Labour in favour of middle class people living in cosmopolitan Southern cities such as London, Bristol and Brighton where people reap the benefits of a ‘multicultural society’ and a better economy. Whilst there are truths in these they simply do not do justice in explaining in detail as to why these areas seem to have embraced the “Brexit” campaign more than lets say nearby regional capitals. 

What is often ignored is the complex histories of the areas that the white working class populate; addressing issues of industrial decline, historically low educational engagement, the decline of traditional masculine jobs, the rise of the service sector, the boom in the warehousing industry and relatively more homogenous communities.

The brexit votes from ex-mining communities are rather votes reflecting a long period of frustration, tension (both racial and class based) and a result of fearmongering.  The white working class in these areas are experiencing transition and a fear of change.  To understand why the white working class in these areas are seen to be more in favour of a ‘Brexit’ it is important to understand the history and geography of these areas.

The capital and regional capitals vs. everywhere else (Doncaster)

One important thing to address is the diversity of these areas often defined by the media as ‘working class’ communities. Often enough no distinction is made between towns such as Doncaster and cities and in the case of the north, the region is often clumped together and simply defined as ‘the north’.  Like these communities are all the same.  There are significant differences between Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and areas of industrial decline such as Barnsley, Doncaster, St.Helens, Wigan and Castleford.

Mining areas such as those in the Doncaster region are unique due to relatively lower levels of immigration linked to the nature of industry and business in the area (Doncaster Town Centre itself during the eithteenth and early nineteenth centuries were dominated by the leisure industry, in particular by Doncaster Racecourse). 

The regional capitals of Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield despite still annoyingly depicted as being ignored and relatively more homogeneous areas that are still stuck in the 90s are now arguably be cosmopolitan, diverse and thriving cities with growing economies and increasing investment from the private sector.  In case of Leeds, it is particularly known for it’s legal and financial sectors; boasting the largest functional economic centre outside of central London.  The city also boasts an established, reputable Russell Group University (Leeds University) and also Leeds Metropolitan University which bring with them large student populations in mainly areas of North Leeds.     All of this means these areas have relatively larger numbers of residents that can be defined as young middle class professionals (my God, let me never use that word again). 

There are also historical factors to take into perspective as areas such as Leeds and Manchester and even to an extent nearby towns such as Huddersfield (which can now arguably by seen simply as a commuter and University town) experienced immigration on a large scale from Commonwealth countries such as India during the Industrial Revolution and also later in the Twentieth Century large numbers of Afro-Caribbean immigrants settling in areas such as Chapeltown in Leeds and Moss Side in Manchester, which to this day still boast high numbers of people of Caribbean descent.  Worries of immigration are higher in areas with relatively little immigration as UKIP’s lack of success in areas such as London and other major UK cities proves. 

*Part 2 coming soon*